This (life-changing) life

Matt Martino; 26/12/09;

Reality television offered up fame and supposed fortune to anyone willing and able enough, and we volunteered. We didn’t win the 2004 series of The Block but we survived the glare. We lived in front of the cameras for 14 weeks, every day and then some. The experience of a lifetime. I never waited in queues, I was given free clothes to wear, invitations to use. I was recognised. I signed autographs, I was photographed, pampered and given all the privileges fame promises. I first met Natasha among the throngs of spectators who queued for hours to glimpse their gilt statues. A request was made for a private meeting. She too wanted to get close to these hollow heroes television could so easily manufacture. Footballers may be valiant to play with broken bones, but true bravery, true heroism is held for a child who will never play and who knows it.

The Australian; No Internet Text
Natasha would not have left footprints in flour. She was sad, she was so tired; she was at the end of an 11-year life. She floated into the room like a brittle autumn leaf on the breeze. Natasha’s wish was simply to meet us.
Have you ever been a person’s last wish? I wish I could say she was beautiful when we met her, but she had been denied this by a cruel fate and her imminent death. The years leading up to it had robbed her of the prettiness she may have once had.
Her parents were so happy. They peddled normality like an elixir, drowning sadness with gallons of love. They were beyond the point of hope but they didn’t waste time mourning.
They would have all their lives to do that.
We visited Natasha in a respite home for children. That this word was plural hurt me. Until then, I thought respite was a word used to describe a break in weather.
It was a place full of immense happiness, of palpable love, of understanding. A place where an awkward understanding between life and death existed, although it was constantly broken as death continually ignored the ceasefire.
Her mother wrote and told us Natasha had held on to find out what happened at the end of our televised experience. She wasn’t happy with the result, but not as unhappy as we were with hers. Natasha died an hour after the final live show aired.
She would be 15 now. I see her as a leaf, green and symmetrical, floating around on the breeze. She ushers my gratitude forward when I feel hard done by. She was still only an apprentice at living but she taught me the price of life; its worth.
People often ask me if I would do it again; what was it like?
I know what they are referring to. I say it was a life-changing experience. I tell them, I learned nothing about nothing and I learned something about everything.
They nod and take away a satisfying answer to a different question. If they only knew what I really meant.